By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Mailman becomes a tree.
Bored with his job as a mailman and unhappy in his marriage John Gwilt (Jason Robards) decides one day to turn himself into an oak tree. He digs a hole in his backyard and ‘plants’ himself into it where he stands there day and night waiting to become a tree while his wife Jane (Sandy Dennis) tries desperately to talk him out of it, his neighbor Fred (Robert Easton) laughs at him and his minister (Mark Miller) tries to have him committed.
The film, which is based on a 1942 Broadway play, has a certain whimsical tone to it that might be pleasing to some if in the right mood and there is a certain strange intrigue at wondering just how this thing will end and whether he will eventually turn into a tree or not. However, the material would be better suited as a film short and the offbeat quality gets lost in a script that deals solely with a long parade of people who come into contact with John and their predictably shocked and confused responses when finding out what he is trying to do. The low budget is also an issue and outside of showing the inner-workings of a mail processing machine at the beginning there is no visual style at all.
Robards is a natural for the part, but he had already played a nonconformist looking to drop out of society earlier in the film and stage play A Thousand Clowns making his appearance here seem almost like typecasting. Jean Simmons gets wasted in a small bit as John’s secret love interest. Dennis, who usually plays kooky characters, becomes the most rational one here, which ultimately is the film’s weirdest element.
This definite curio does have a few amusing moments, but it lacks a second act or interesting side story and eventually talks its strange concept to death until it becomes boring.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: December 12, 1975
Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes
Director: Pancho Kohner
Studio: Film Ventures International
I saw this the other day and didn’t quite know what to make of it ? Was it meant to be a satire or an allegory or what? Though it was well acted. It is out on dvd now on The Swingin’ Seventies collection of 50 films from Mill Creek.
Thanks Glen for that update. If anyone is interested in seeing it they will be happy to know it can be obtained on a DVD.